Beautifully minimalist with a focus on function, Scandinavian design entered the international consciousness in the mid-1950s and had steadily grown in popularity in the years since. Admired for its aesthetic purity and for embracing natural light and materials, the style largely derives from a need to create a sense of comfort and warmth during long, harsh winters. Hallmarks of Scandinavian design include an innate respect for nature, beauty in harmony with functionality, and innovative use of available resources. However, each country has interpreted these principles in its own unique way.
Noway’s folk crafting tradition originated with the Vikings and the Lapps, but in the 20th century, this artisan culture melded with Art Nouveau styles to create its modern aesthetic. Frida Hansen’s rustic wool tapestries are an early example of this, with their intricate but roughly-woven images of women and nature. Peter Opsvik is one of the best-known modern Norwegian designers, famed for the Tripp Trapp, a highchair that can be continually expanded to accommodate a growing child, while Sundays Designs’ colourful garden furniture is built to withstand both rain and snow.
Painter Carl Larsson’s idyllic depictions of rural life have been a consistent influence in Swedish design, contributing to the prevalence of bare wooden floors, simple upholstery and muted palettes. Following a brief dalliance with Functionalism in the ’20s and ’30s, Swedish design regained the flair for economy, longevity and beauty that we still see today. Through the high-street chain Ikea, Sweden has influenced taste all over the globe. In Stockholm, head straight to Malmstenbutiken to pick out timeless pieces from upcoming and established designers.
In Finnish design, motifs and shapes are often inspired by the compelling contours and dramatic peaks of the regional landscape. This is particularly prominent in the work of one of the country’s most celebrated designers; Alvar Aalto, who is best-known for his colourful vase which, from above, resembles the fluid outline of a body of water. It’s said that the shape reflects the geography of Finland’s enchanting lakes, although it has also been suggested that he was inspired by the traditional Eskimo costume of leather breeches. In either case, the resulting delicate vases remain a quintessential example of Finnish design.
Denmark’s vibrant and versatile design culture is a product of the country’s prominent seafaring tradition, influenced by years of trading with the UK, USA and Asia. Rounded edges and a minimalistic use of materials are symptomatic of the emphasis on functionality, exemplified by Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Series 7 chairs. Lightweight and easily stackable, the curved silhouette is now instantly recognisable around the world.
Thanks to its remote location, Iceland has carved out its own distinct path in terms of art and design, centred around a delicate balance between technological modernity and a deep-rooted respect for nature. In the latter half of the 20th century, Einar Þorsteinn Ásgeirsson was one of the first architects to consider environmental awareness in his designs, building innovative geodesic-dome residences and proposing plans for an entirely green community entitled Icelandic Oasis.
With offices throughout northern Europe, Engel & Völkers is ideally placed to introduce you to a new Scandinavian property that epitomises these principles. To begin your search, visit us online or in-store.